We wanted a thick-cut bacon that would give us something to chew on.
Published Jan. 30, 2019.
Thick-cut, double-cut, triple-thick-cut, extra-thick-cut, and even steak-cut: Bacon today comes in a variety of ever-more-substantial slices, accommodating a new world order in which bacon is no longer seen as a mere supporting player—there just to enhance the performance of the main ingredient—but as the star attraction, a meat worthy of attention in its own right. We decided to take a fresh look at this increasingly popular style of bacon, so we bought six top-selling national products (as assessed by IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm), priced from $3.99 to $6.99 per pound. We focused on the most basic thick-cut bacons, tasting them both plain and in BLTs.
Large-scale commercial producers make thick-cut bacon the same way they make regular bacon: Fresh pork bellies are wet-brined—injected with a solution containing salt, sugar, and curing agents—and then cooked at a low temperature to remove excess moisture before being smoked, chilled, and sliced. The only real difference between thick-cut bacon and regular bacon is in how thickly the bacon is cut; in many cases, the two types are processed identically right up to the slicing stage.
There is no industry standard that dictates how thick a piece of bacon must be to be called thick-cut. On average, the products in our lineup ranged from 3.2 to 3.8 millimeters thick, about 50 percent thicker than the regular-cut bacons we'd tasted previously.
Tasters liked almost all the bacons regardless of how thick they were, but they noticed something interesting: Across the board, the texture was much less crispy than that of the regular-cut bacon many of us are used to eating. To understand why, we consulted Gordon Smith, professor of grain science at Kansas State University. He told us that because the bacon is thicker, it's harder to dehydrate the “lean,” or the meaty portion, of each slice to get it crispy enough; moisture lingers in the interior, resulting in bacon that registers as chewy even after you've cooked it long enough for most of the fat to be rendered. Still, the majority of our tasters found this chewier texture to be perfectly acceptable; to some, it made the slices seem more “meaty” and “substantial.”
Additionally, we preferred bacon that was leaner, with equal amounts of protein and fat. Products that had more fat occasionally came across as “greasy” or “too fatty,” though they were still largely good to eat.
Flavor proved more important. Like the regular bacons, most of the thick-cut products were deemed only mildly smoky. But that was fine by our tasters, who generally ranked bacons...
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Miye is a senior editor for ATK Reviews. She covers booze, blades, and gadgets of questionable value.